MOUNT VERNON — Rescue personnel pulled the body of Noe Plata, 32, Mount Vernon, from the Kokosing River on Tuesday afternoon.
Plata is believed to have drown Monday afternoon while swimming near the Caves Campground, east of Millwood.
According to family friend Kimberly Kurutz, Plata along with his wife, Joann Fields, and daughter had just arrived at Caves Campground east of Millwood. Shortly after Plata went swimming in the river, Joann reportedly heard what sounded like a cry for help. Not knowing if it was a serious or playful cry, she then heard a second plea spoken in Spanish.
The family and others in the area could not spot Plata and quickly responded to his rescue. Not able to find him, they called 9-1-1.
Arriving at the scene were personnel the Eastern Knox County Joint Fire District, Fredericktown Community Volunteer Fire Department, Walhonding Valley Fire Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
“Our understanding is that he was not that strong of a swimmer,” said Knox County Sheriff David Barber. “And I don’t believe they were familiar with swimming in the river in this location.”
Divers were in the water searching since Monday afternoon and into the evening hours until search efforts were discontinued around 9:30 p.m. when darkness made it unsafe to continue. The search resumed Tuesday morning with divers, boats with sight sonar and cadaver dogs in search of the body.
“At about 1:20 p.m., the body came to the surface with divers in the water and was positively identified by family members who had been here since last night,” said Barber.
Knox County Coroner Dr. Jennifer Ogle ordered the body taken to the Licking County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy.
“The water temperature was about 75 to 76 degrees; and when it is this warm, it can bring a drowning victim to the surface much quicker than if it’s cold water,” said Barber. “That’s what we had been anticipating.”
Friends and former co-workers now feel a void with the unexpected death of Plata.
“I met Noe when I came to Ryan’s to work,” said Charlotte Pack. “You won’t find a harder worker than Noe. He was loyal, hard working, and was always there for me when I needed somebody. You couldn’t find a more dependable person. My heart really goes out to Joann. It’s hard enough to lose somebody when you’re expecting it. But when you're not expecting it, I just can’t imagine. He will be missed. He had lots of friends.”